Everton held back by inferiority complex in neighbourhood rivalry with Liverpool

Neville admits they let Liverpool dictate and says 'ambitious' Moyes must stay on as manager

The last time Everton defeated Liverpool in an FA Cup semi-final their right-flank pairing, Harry Makepeace and Jack Sharp, spent their summers playing cricket for Lancashire, the latter also for England, and the left-winger, Harold Hardman, was an amateur. That was in 1906 and ever since, it seems, Everton have been found wanting when meeting Liverpool in Cup ties of such magnitude.

The subsequent losing run includes three domestic finals and, now, four FA Cup semi–finals. It is not that the club always freezes on the big occasion, as Saturday's 2-1 defeat was Everton's first in eight semis. The last loss at this stage was the controversial 1977 exit at the hands of ... Liverpool. More recently David Moyes, for all his achievements as manager at Goodison, has won four out of 23 matches against Liverpool and never at Anfield (while Kenny Dalglish has lost three of 26 Mersey derbies in management).

This inferiority complex was apparent at Wembley. Having gone ahead through Nikica Jelavic Everton seemed intent only on hanging on, surrendering the pitch to their opponents. True, Liverpool's breakthrough was down to a bad error by Sylvain Distin but there had been other opportunities.

 

"We thought we had Liverpool where we wanted them at 1–0," said Phil Neville, "but the best teams score a second when they are on top. We sat off them too much in the second half. We allowed them to dictate the play.

"I don't think there is a psychological barrier with Liverpool, but straight from the kick-off [Stewart] Downing went through and that unsettled us. We sat too deep and that was the problem. We need to look at ourselves and how we played in the second half."

Arsenal fans moan about their seventh trophyless season but Everton have now gone 17 years without silverware, their longest drought for half a century and an age for a club whose nine titles are exceeded only by Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

The question for Everton now is: what next? Neville is one of five Saturday starters in their 30s, as is Steven Pienaar who they will try to bring back permanently from Tottenham in the summer. Also in his 30th year is Phil Jagielka who may think, next time he receives entreaties from elsewhere, why stay at a club where he was not selected for the biggest game of the season? Leighton Baines, too, may look at Mikel Arteta prospering at Arsenal and think maybe it is time to move on.

Renewal is underway. Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini are both 24 and Ross Barkley is following Jack Rodwell off the production line, but how long before Moyes tires of Everton's budgetary restraints? Investors are proving elusive and the club is struggling to keep up financially. Robert Elstone, the chief executive, said when increasing ticket prices by three per cent: "We are tasked with driving up revenues, tasked with finding more money to support all we do down at Finch Farm [the training ground]."

Neville, at least, was optimistic that his manager would stay. "The way he has managed us in the last month or two suggests to me that he is in it for the long term. He has been fantastic and rotated the team, something this club hasn't been able to do before. The lads have really embraced that. He is ambitious and he wants to get to the top. He wants to do that with Everton. We've just got to make sure we stop slipping up at this stage of games.

"Back in October everyone had written us off. Everyone thought the club was on its knees and we were finished as a team. But we bounced back. We have got to make sure we keep getting to these occasions. The Liverpool team had experience of these stages. We haven't. That's something we have got to keep striving for."

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